December 02, 2016

Interconnecting the Internet of Things: The Key to Fulfilling the Promise of the IoT Age

The over-riding question facing the array of companies and government entities today seeking the benefits of the Internet of Things for their own organizations and their stakeholders is: If you build it, will everything connect?

Many believe we are standing at the threshold of a new, connected era of human civilization. Yet many are also still unsure that their IoT platforms will work seamlessly with others across regions, verticals, and devices.

To fulfill the promise of the IoT age, the industry must avoid getting bogged down in format wars as technology in the past. That will only result in added costs, a slower pace of implementation and adoption, and decreasing benefit.

It could be argued that interoperability is the promise of IoT. The building of smart cities, for instance, requires many different companies providing proprietary technologies. It’s critical that they interwork for optimized efficiencies between the energy grid, the transportation system, public services, residences, industry, etc. 

Without interworking between existing and future applications, smart cities could become vulnerable. The infrastructure that today’s cities were built on was created well before computers had the capability to be ubiquitously connected to each other. For cities to become more sophisticated, a number of different technologies will have to be adapted. This could mean working with thousands of applications, some decades old. Without interoperability to share information that is secured from end to end, these applications could face severe security issues, such as outside threats tampering with traffic control systems, city management systems, smart grids, etc.

The good news is that there are effective measures coming to the fore that can ensure that independent systems can talk to each other securely. A critical solution is the oneM2M global standard initiative. Formed in 2012 by eight of the world’s leading ICT standards development organizations with more than 200 member companies, oneM2M provides a necessary framework for interoperability between the many machine-to-machine and IoT technologies being introduced. 

Engineers from oneM2M member companies and standards bodies meet regularly across the world in interoperability working groups that define and test specifications to ensure disparate platforms and devices can communicate via a standardized service enablement layer, the software that sits between M2M applications and the communications hardware and software that provide data transport.

Normally riding on top of internet protocol, while also allowing non-IP devices to be included, the standard provides functions required for distributed intelligence across devices, gateways and cloud-based M2M applications, and different industry segments.

In March of this year, oneM2M announced its updated Release 1 global specifications and guidelines for IoT app developers, device manufacturers, platform providers, and their customers. Providing the first updates one year following the initial publication of the standard, Release 1 covered requirements involving architecture, application programming interface specifications, security solutions, and mapping to common industry protocols such as CoAP, MQTT and HTTP. The goal was to enable a broad range of applications and devices to communicate using the oneM2M standard.

Another oneM2M standard update – Release 2 – was announced this past July.  Key features of the updated standard include:
Internetworking Frameworks – They extend oneM2M into technologies that weren’t included in the previous release. That includes the AllSeen Alliance, OCF, and OMA LightWeightM2M, enabling communication between different M2M systems and devices that employ these technologies.
Semantic Interoperability – This moves the oneM2M framework from syntactic interoperability to semantic interoperability, linking to domain-specific ontologies with semantic descriptions and discovery for easier data conversation. 
Extended Security – This enables the secure information exchange between applications that transit any number of intermediate systems and routers. Security and access control are also implemented, allowing dynamic authorization of outside concepts such as device onboarding.
Simpler Application Development – This includes guideline and API tools that make the oneM2M protocols easier for developers to integrate into their applications.
Domain Enablement – This allows for information from various industry applications to exchange data, from consumer/home domains to industrial and health care.
oneM2M is moving fast. While still a comparatively young standard, its breadth of specifications and adoption rates are growing quickly. Release 1, for instance, has already been used in service provider deployments in South Korea, Asia, and Europe for smart city and transport system deployments.

Release 2 provides the unique value proposition that application developers have been looking for – a single common core interworking platform technology – to deliver on the promise of the Internet of Things.

oneM2M Release 3 is expected to provide even better support for application developers and will specifically focus on functionality for the industrial IoT. 

To revisit the question that began this article: If you build it, will everything connect? With the oneM2M standard gaining momentum among key players throughout the world, the answer can be a confident yes.

Tim Carey is industry standards manager at Nokia (www.nokia.com) and Joerg Swetina is senior standardization representative for NEC Europe.

Edited by Ken Briodagh

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